VAST was busy over the winter!
VAST has been busy this winter with lots of activities!
Old Man Winter kept us on our toes this year. After what looked like an early start to the season, the ski season took a while to get fully underway. Even after it did, we saw some weather that made us get creative. After it was all said and done, we were able to get out for (8) sessions of XC Skiing and Snowshoeing during our weekly Wednesday sessions. We owe a special thanks to our volunteers, Dick Read and Eric Dunn, for their help with ensuring the equipment was ready to go. Their waxing skills are much appreciated. The remainder of the weeks, we kept busy with WC Basketball, Bowling, Boccia and Disc Golf at the Pineland Farms YMCA. During all of the various weather challenges, we never cancelled programming and hanging out with fellow Veterans was a great way to combat the winter blues.
Maine Huts and Trails Trip: On January 13-14, thanks to a generous grant from Avangrid, we were able to take a group of (10) Veterans with disabilities and (6) Volunteers on an overnight XC skip trip to Maine Huts and Trails at Flagstaff Lake. We used adaptive equipment for some of our skiers and a specially designed sled to carry the infant daughter of one Veteran. Needless to say, this over-the-top cutie stole the show and brought out the Grandpa in some of us. After the 2 +mile ski to the hut, most of the group went out for a late afternoon ski after lunch. Because of the short days, this turned into an early evening ski in the dark. Being Veterans, they were prepared with enough headlamps to get everyone home safely in time for dinner. Our hardy group of Veterans had an amazing time despite the -10F temperature on the morning of our departure!
Veterans No Boundaries Collaboration: On January 26th, VAST travelled to Bethel to bring WC Basketball to Maine Adaptive’s Veterans-No-Boundaries Camp. Usually it is the weather that is our biggest challenge, However, this year it was vehicle issues. After some last-minute shuffling of vehicles and resources, we were able to pull everything together. (14) Veterans and their families enjoyed a couple of highly spirited games. As is usually the case, the games started out calmly, but it was not long before folks started to figure out “tricks” of the game. The youngsters really seemed to enjoy going head to head against their parents.
South Paris Veterans Home: As we have done on a number of occasions during warmer parts of the year, VAST went on the road again to bring programming to the S. Paris Veterans Home. The majority of the (9) Veteran participants enjoyed Boccia and Laser Rifles. For one Veteran though, the highlight was the chance to get out on snowshoes again. It was a long-time goal of his and brought back memories of his days serving in Antarctica. We look forward to getting back to S. Paris this spring.
Mainers Hockey Game in Libra Suite: A group of (11) Veterans along with family members had the opportunity to enjoy a Mariners Hockey Game on February 13th. On top of attending a good game of hockey, the Veterans were able to relax in the large box seat area courtesy of the Libra Foundation. This is something we have been able to do in the past at other sporting and entertainment events. Whenever the opportunity arises, we will get the word out to everyone. And yes, pizza and soda were available for everyone’s enjoyment.
VAST Annual Nordic Biathlon Camp: One of the real highlights from the winter was our annual Nordic Biathlon Camp that we conducted from February 28-Mar 4. The best snow conditions of the season provided the foundation for a great few days of skiing and competition. We had (16) Veteran Participants with the complete range of physical and other challenges. We even had a visually impaired Veteran that was able to shoot the pellet rifles using a special sound-based system to let him know when he was on target. The effort exhibited by all the participants was inspiring. As you might expect, there is a lot that goes into one of these camps. The group of volunteers included Veterans, Veterans with disabilities and non-Veterans and really help put on a good show. They did everything from coaching and instructing, to cooking, transportation, admin runs, range operations and more.
Ice Fishing with Sebago Lake Anglers Association: We managed one day of ice fishing with Veterans on Brandy Pond thanks to the efforts of the Sebago Lake Anglers and their heated ice fishing shack. We had a few bites but the highlight was catching a large pike that had swallowed a yellow perch! We hope for more of these ice fishing adventures next year, as well as some more fishing on Brandy Pond this Spring and Summer.
Shoulder Season Activities: We are now working our way through a shoulder season with Bowling, WC Basketball, Boccia and Disc Golf (if we get enough dry weather) the use of the Pineland Farms YMCA. We are also getting things ready for cycling season using cycles from Maine Adaptive Sports. That will be our primary activity during May and June. Finally, our Turkey Hunting Camp is on track for April 28-May 2. If you haven’t been to VAST, please feel free to stop by at the Outdoor Center on any Wednesday morning around 0900. We will always be there and welcome all Veterans!